Like pretty much every other group of people, I guess – Christian Scientists, too, have their “Albert Einstein Stories” – stories that indicate Einstein felt WE were on the right path. I know. The further we get from the actual life and times of Einstein, the more we seem to turn to him as the ultimate authority on… well, pretty much everything, and the farther we seem to get from knowing what he actually thought and believed about stuff.
Ahem. I’m pretty sure OUR stories are true, though. 🙂
Anyway. One of “our” stories says that Einstein once said to a group of Christian Scientists at the end of a Christian Science service, “You people don’t realize what you have here.” And, whether or not this story is actually true, I can totally imagine Einstein saying it. And I can totally imagine the circumstances that would lead him to say it.
I had occasion to hear a visitor to a Christian Science Organization meeting once say something really similar. I haven’t often shared this particular story because it’s embarrassing. In so MANY ways. And I inwardly cringe every time I think about it. But I think now might be a good time to re-tell it.
Years ago – back when I was a student at a state university – the young woman who was scheduled to conduct our next Christian Science students’ meeting called to ask me if I could do it instead. I was delighted to do so. If I don’t mind saying so, I have a real knack for putting together readings that present a message in a harmonious way. And I’ve always been really good at oral reading, too – I seem to have a natural gift for knowing when to go up with my voice, and knowing when to go down, knowing when to pause, and knowing when to not, and knowing, instinctively, how to bring meaning to the text I’m reading. But I’d never before had the opportunity to conduct an “org” meeting, and none of my fellow CS students knew I was good at this kind of thing. This would be my opportunity to use some of my gifts, and I was excited about it.
It so happens that our organization had, just the night before, held our annual Christian Science lecture. It had been a wonderful, funny, inspiring talk given by a man named Harvey Wood – who was most excellent at connecting with college students and sharing Christian Science in a natural way – without aggression, pushiness, or self-consciousness. That night Harvey had been a real hit with the visitors to our lecture, and many of them had left the lecture wanting to learn more about this way of life.
At our organization meeting – the one I was prepared to conduct – we found ourselves with a lot of visitors. Weirdly (but not really) the young woman who had asked me to read for her, suddenly showed up, sat down next to me, and said she could lead the meeting after all. And this is where I made my mistake. Not willing to make a scene, I handed over the books. Now I had marked the books for myself – I knew where all the arrows went, knew what my little codes meant, knew how to read these passages with meaning and the emphasis I needed. The young woman who took the books from me was soon completely lost. She kept shaking her head, and asking me for direction – making it look like I had somehow failed in my attempt to put together coherent readings for this meeting, and totally distracting from the message I’d wanted to convey that night. (Lesson learned. Today if someone tried to pull something like that on me, I would simply say, “No. That’s alright. I’m prepared to read tonight. But thank you for offering.”)
Finally, after a little power struggle and a lot of tangling and tugging of egos, the readings were done. Now it was time for people to talk about their experiences with Christian Science, and ask questions. One of our visitors looked at us – an expression of bewilderment and shock on his face – and asked, “Do you people realize what you have here?!”
It was embarrassingly obvious he didn’t think we did.
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about that incident. Once again I’m seeing a tangling and tugging of egos, people letting themselves get distracted from the real purpose of “church,” and bickering and quibbling over things that have nothing to do with that purpose.
Mary Baker Eddy defines “Church” as “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” She writes that the “Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting our devils, or error, and healing the sick.”
If something isn’t proceeding from Love, isn’t leading towards Love, isn’t “elevating the race, and rousing the dormant understanding” and isn’t bringing healing to God’s creation – what’s the use of it? Why are we spending time with it? We all – and I’m not just talking about self-proclaimed “Christian Scientists” here – have so much to do right now that’s important and vital to the world – we have healing to do, and love to express – and, in my opinion, anything less than that just isn’t worthy of our time, or worthy of us, as God’s children.
“The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love.” – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.